U.S. Gives FDA Power to Regulate Tobacco

Published August 1, 2009

Congress has approved a measure to regulate tobacco under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration for the first time in American history.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, by a 298-112 vote in April. The Senate followed suit in June, voting 79-17. President Barack Obama was expected to sign the bill into law in July.

HB 1256 imposes new regulations on the tobacco industry, including banning flavored cigarettes, requiring larger warning labels on tobacco product packages, and prohibiting cigarette manufacturers from advertising their products as “light” or “low tar.”

Proponents of the bill say their intent is to reduce the incidence of tobacco-related deaths in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.”

John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute, says regulation of tobacco use is not a proper sphere of government action and directs attention away from more important work.

“This bill will have an important and beneficial effect on the government’s burgeoning tobacco bureaucracy,” said Graham.

“Of course,” Graham continued, “the federal government has zero constitutional authority to control people’s use of tobacco, but I never expected that to stop them. Scientists who should be researching new medicines will waste their careers scolding people about their use of the noxious weed.”

Katie Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.

For more information …

House Bill 1256: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-1256